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The Week in Switzerland

The government's endorsement of its foreign policy aims and the failed auction of lucrative mobile phone licences have dominated the news in Switzerland this week. The cold and damp weather also hit the headlines.

The cabinet, which exceptionally held its weekly meeting in Lugano instead of the capital, Bern, presented its new foreign policy report confirming its main target for the current legislative period is to join the United Nations by 2003.

The government set itself the target date of 2007 to decide whether Switzerland should join the European Union, following the approval of a series of bilateral treaties with Brussels earlier this year.

The cabinet also signalled its support for the setting up of a permanent international criminal court. It called on parliament to approve the necessary documents.

The tribunal, which would deal with genocide and crimes against humanity, can only come into existence if at least 60 countries have ratified the agreements. But several key countries, including the United States, Israel and China are against it.

A week before voters are due to go to the polls to decide on defence spending, social security and labour issues, two new people's initiatives have been handed in to the federal authorities.

The right-wing People's Party submitted nearly 110,000 signatures calling for tougher asylum laws. A few days later, animal rights activists presented just as many signatures demanding a better legal status for animals.

The week began with a disappointment for the federal authorities. They had to cancel a potentially lucrative auction of UMTS licences for new generation mobile phone services.

By the time the auction was due to start, there were only four bidders left for the four licences. Several companies had either pulled out or merged with others. The government has been left empty-handed for the time being, after forecasting revenue of up to SFr9 billion earlier in the year.

Finally, the past week marked the official start of the winter season. Many mountain resorts opened for business, following several days of good snowfall.

The first snowflakes of the season were also spotted in low-lying regions of the country, causing chaos on the roads.

by Urs Geiser

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